Amara West project blog

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Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2014: house D12.6

Excavating house D12.6

David Fallon, archaeologist

House D12.6 under excavation, with room numbers. North at top.

House D12.6 under excavation, with room numbers. North at top.

Two weeks on, all the rooms that originally comprised house D12.6 are empty of sand and rubble, the walls have been planned. None of the other rooms yielded assemblages like that in room 5, but the mysteries have continued. Below the rubble within Room 2, that at the heart of the house, was a large central hearth and an undulating clay floor with patches of baked clay and scorching. Room 4 has the remains of a clay brick floor that may have been repaired with a clay surface similar to that in Room 2. While there is further evidence of heat (scorched walls) and grinding stones found on some floors, suggesting cereal preparation, we can’t find any ovens!

Grinding emplacement in room 3

Grinding emplacement in room 3

Room 3, at the front of the house, was a busier place, in architectural terms. After removing substantial deposits of collapsed roofing and windblown sand, two sets of grinding emplacements were revealed, alongside a large grinding stone and a staircase. This had nicely preserved schist stones as steps. The grinding emplacements comprise a concave trough, or set of troughs, to hold a large grinding stone – there is space for the person grinding to stand, and a plaster basin to catch the ground material, probably cereal. Both emplacements were right next to the doorway into Room 2, with the basins getting in the way of the route through the door.

Moving on up: 3200 year old staircase in room 3

Moving on up: 3200 year old staircase in room 3

And still no bread ovens, common to nearly all houses. Had they been on an upper floor? With all the rooms of D12.6 excavated, there seemed nowhere else to look.

Modified front door to house D12.6

Modified front door to house D12.6

An idea had been growing in my mind during my work at D12.6, that the use of the building had been significantly modified. I switched my attention to the last piece of unexcavated archaeology of D12.6, the entrance. Saved for last, as potentially the most complex (enjoyable) to excavate. The entrance had been modified, with walls added, entrance narrowed and eventually blocked – a defence against windblown sand and to stop rubbish from the street coming into the house?

Moving down the corridor outside the entrance of the house itself, we found the elusive bread oven. Finally. Had D12.6 expanded into the building to the south, incorporating an external passageway as an internal work-space? Had this expansion altered the way that D12.6 itself was used?

Excavations underway in house D12.6 (near) and D12.7 (beyond)

Excavations underway in house D12.6 (near) and D12.7 (beyond)

The last few weeks in D12.6 are revealing hints of the activities that took place within houses. Yes, we’ve produced more unanswered questions, but perhaps the past is a little less obscure now than it when we began, a little less forgotten. In this last week, I will be undertaking a small number of target excavations to clarify details – especially whether there were several phases of floor modification. And then I have plans, sections and context sheets to complete.

Alongside regular updates on the blog, follow the season on Twitter: @NealSpencer_BM and #amarawest

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